Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin lands a Pentagon contract to design nuclear-powered spacecraft

Jeff Bezos Blue Origin
Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos. SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images
  • The Pentagon has awarded Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ aerospace company, a $2.5 million contract.
  • Blue Origin will design concepts for a nuclear-powered spacecraft.
  • It won a contract for the craft alongside Lockheed Martin and General Atomics.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Pentagon on Monday awarded Blue Origin, the aerospace company founded by Jeff Bezos, a $2.5 million contract to design a nuclear-powered spacecraft.

The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) agency also chose Lockheed Martin and General Atomics for the first phase of a program to design and build the spacecraft, it said in a statement.

Lockheed Martin got a $2.9 million contract to design a craft for the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program, and General Atomics a $22.2 million one to design a small nuclear reactor to power a rocket, CNBC reported.

DARPA wants to test nuclear thermal propulsion technology, which uses a nuclear reactor in a rocket to heat up the fuel and propel the craft beyond low Earth orbit.

Rockets are usually powered by chemical or electrical-based systems. The agency said both have “drawbacks” and that nuclear propulsion tech could have benefits of both: the power of chemical-based and the efficiency of electrical-based.

The agency said in the statement it wanted to try a nuclear-powered spacecraft in orbit in 2025.

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Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, and General Atomics “have demonstrated capabilities to develop and deploy advanced reactor, propulsion, and spacecraft systems,” said Maj Nathan Greiner, DRACO program manager.

The first phase of DRACO will last 18 months.

“Blue Origin is excited to support DARPA in maturing spacecraft concepts for this important technology area,” said Brent Sherwood, the company’s senior vice president of Advanced Development Programs, in a statement to Insider.

This is one of many contracts Blue Origin has landed since being founded by Amazon CEO Bezos in 2000. The space venture, which wants to revolutionize space travel and colonize the solar system, was awarded three NASA contracts in 2020, including one to carry out missions and satellite launches with its New Glenn rocket.